Architect Phillip James Dodd says he carefully weighed his options once he was tasked with designing a house for a wide but shallow lot facing the coastal road in Palm Beach’s Estate Section.
How could he make the most of the property’s buildable “envelope,” which was 240 feet in length but only 39 feet deep at its narrowest point?
His solution for the property at 1020 S. Ocean Blvd. was a highly detailed Mediterranean-style home with an elongated silhouette and three distinct, stepped-back segments. Set at an angle, the house stretches along the property north to south with a footprint that’s one-room deep in most places.
“Everyone thinks this house is bigger than it is,” Dodd told an audience last week before he accepted the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach’s 2022 Elizabeth L. and John H. Schuler Award.
The honor, as Foundation President and CEO Amanda Skier described it, recognizes “new architecture that expresses superior design and complements the architectural history of Palm Beach.”
John Schuler Jr., whose parents spearheaded and endowed the award, presented it to Dodd Tuesday at the foundation’s building on Peruvian Avenue.
“Thank you very much. It means a tremendous amount to me,” Dodd said, noting that the award would get the “pride-of-place” spot in his office.
The award presentation returned to the foundation’s calendar after a year’s hiatus caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The first award ceremony took place in 2006.
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In her introductory remarks, Skier praised Dodd’s design for artfully blending “the traditional architecture of the area with the modern needs of a 21st-century home.” She noted that the house did not require any zoning variances to build.
The design also won the Architectural Commission’s unanimous approval on its initial review in 2018.
Based in Greenwich, Connecticut, Dodd is principal of Phillip James Dodd Bespoke Residential Design LLC. Born in England, he has lived in the United States since 1996 and has written a number of books on architectural history.
The house on South Ocean Boulevard was his first Palm Beach commission. But he gained experience working in town with architect and Architectural Commission Vice Chairman Richard Sammons during the restoration and expansion some 20 years ago of Il Palmetto, a landmarked Mediterranean-style estate designed by noted architect Maurice Fatio.
In addition to Dodd, the presentation honored, in absentia, his clients, who were not named during the ceremony. They hired Dodd after combining two lots — measuring in total eight-tenths of an acre — that lie a few streets north of former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club.
With five bedrooms and ocean views, the house has about 12,000 square feet of air-conditioned space. Dodd likened the house to a row of books with two “bookends” – a one-story entrance pavilion with a scalloped Flemish-inspired gable on the north side and, on the opposite end, a buttress-like wall in a similar style near the swimming pool on the front lawn.
The house has traditional Mediterranean-style details, including a white stucco exterior and a red barrel-tile roof. Limestone was used for the window surrounds and the railing balusters, the latter inspired by those Fatio designed for Il Palmetto, Dodd said.
A key element is the three-story tower, which nods at those found at other Mediterranean-style homes in the Estate Section.
“I wanted to design something that wouldn’t embarrass the architecture around it, that would be worthy of these other architectural landmarks,” Dodd said in a phone interview.
But the tower also helps ease the transition from the formal living and dining rooms to the more informal family room and kitchen area, he said.
Because the house is so long, Dodd used the tower and other architectural elements — including set-back loggias — to “break up the monotony” of the streetside façade, he said. The architecture, he explained, also becomes simpler as one scans the house from the north to the south, reflecting the functions of the rooms within.
On the rear side, Dodd added, “I wanted to have a much more tropical feel.” He accomplished that, in part, by designing a cozy courtyard centered by a fountain and planted with orchids.
“This is a long house, but we still have spaces of intimacy,” he said.
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West Palm Beach-based Ralph Cantin served as architect of record for the project, which was built by Rogers General Contracting. Dodd also credited Fred Zrinscak as a consultant.
Dodd’s architectural history books include his latest, “An American Renaissance: Beaux-Arts Architecture in New York City,” with a forward by Academy Award-winner Julian Fellowes, who has written the television shows “The Gilded Age” and “Downton Abbey.”
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Darrell Hofheinz is a USA TODAY Network of Florida journalist who writes about Palm Beach real estate in his weekly “Beyond the Hedges” column. He welcomes tips about real estate news on the island. Email firstname.lastname@example.org, call (561) 820-3831 or tweet @PBDN_Hofheinz. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.